MBE Spotlight: Brett Bucktooth
Brett Bucktooth is the Supplier Diversity Manager at Ongweoweh. Before starting his career he grew up on a small Native American reservation in Onondaga, NY—located just 3 miles south of Syracuse. His first passion in life is lacrosse, which is a part of who the Onondagas are as a people—from birth to death. Lacrosse is deeply rooted in their history as they believe it is a gift from their Creator. As he continued to play the game and excel, the dream of pursuing a college education came true and he was able to earn a degree at Syracuse University. After graduating he played professional lacrosse for 12 years while also working as a financial planner for Mass Mutual. After he completed his professional career, he got married. Brett’s wife’s name is Sateiokwen and in her Mohawk language the translation is, “She picks things up easily”. Fitting as she now harvests medicines and continues to use the language in running her own business. Brett is also a proud father to his children, Brett Jr and Aura, whom each have their traditional Mohawk names.
In 2019, Brett transitioned his career to the world of pallets. He started out at Ongweoweh Corp as an Account Manager, where he oversaw the pallet category for two national accounts. A year later Brett transitioned to become the Supplier Diversity Manager. Since assuming that role he has implemented a new Standard Operating Procedure and fostered numerous business relationships at national conferences and trade shows on behalf of Ongweoweh Corp. One of the biggest takeaways he has learned in his role is being a champion for diverse suppliers and sharing the integral role they play in procuring and sustaining a strong, reliable supply chain.
Established in 1978, Ongweoweh Corp was founded by Frank Bonamie. He started manufacturing pallets in upstate New York until the demand outgrew his work force. He then transitioned from a manufacturer into the national pallet management company it is today. Ongweoweh Corp is a Native American-owned, pallet management company providing competitive procurement, recycling services, and supply chain optimization programs. They provide custom reporting along with data and trend analysis for a very diverse customer base of Fortune 500 companies. Ongweoweh services a variety of industries, including food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, grains, chemicals, automotive components, oil, technology, corrugate, retail, and more.
What does being a minority business, or supporting minority businesses, mean to you?
As a minority owned business we understand there is no guarantee of business after an introduction. The hard work and consistent effort of providing trustworthy service while sustaining a healthy relationship are keys to success. As a minority owned business we understand the challenges and adversity small businesses experience. When Ongweoweh participates in an RFP/RFQ we’re forging new relationships with diverse suppliers knowing they’re driving innovation with creative responses to today’s challenges. In 2021 our diverse spend with suppliers exceeded $40 Million. Supporting minority owned businesses goes beyond market share; more importantly it’s good business to work with communities that support at the grassroots level. Strengthening the local economy leads to social and economic development which in turn spurns increased opportunities.
How has being certified with the NMSDC helped your business?
Since joining the NMSDC and becoming Corporate Plus, Ongweoweh has been able to widen its scope of business. By proving our capabilities and utilizing our membership in the NYNJMSDC; attending conferences and trade shows has been beneficial because it enables Ongweoweh to get out in front of prospective targets to create and generate opportunities through building relationships. When we speak about the success of our business we’re also speaking to the success of our diverse suppliers and our customers who believe in having a supplier diversity program being put into action. Partnering with a diverse supplier strengthens, stabilizes and adds flexibility within their supply chain.
What is one thing you wish you had known when you were starting out in your career?
I wish I had known how much industries across all platforms relied on the usage of pallets. There’s a saying I’ve become accustomed to hearing and sharing and that is, “pallets help make the world go ’round.” Now that I have an understanding of the integral role pallets play in the supply chain I have the utmost respect for all mills and lumber suppliers.